The Inside Assyria Discussion Forum


Posted by Tony (Guest) - Sunday, September 26 2004, 21:17:22 (CEST)
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In the Fourth century when the Emperor Constantine formally adopted Christianity. One of his first action was to proclaim his protection over all Eastern Christians-protection which in fact he was not able to afford. This harmed his protégés, as have done many well-intentioned interventions of later dates. Meanwhile the theological dialectics of the Church Fathers were working out to their inevitable end-the breach with the Church in the West, and the splitting of the Church in the East. (1)

(1) The next Council, that of Calchedon (A.D. 451), resulted in a further split and the establishment of the monophysite Churches of Syria (the Jacobites), of Egypt (the Copts), and of Armenia. It did not, however, touch the Assyrians.

But while these doctrinal disputes were important equally important was the growing revolt of the Eastern Church against the domination of Constantinople. It was the oldest form of the conflict between the MYSTICISM OF THE EAST, THE SOURCE OF ALL RELIGIONS, AND THE INTELLECTUALITY OF THE WEST, AS REPRESENTED BY GREECE, SEMITIC THOUGHT AS AGAINST GREEK PHILOSOPHY.

When the Moslem hordes spread northwards, carrying out the designs of the Prophet, the Christians, who were the only educated people, were of some use to the Arab conquerors, whose habits they found were more humane than their later conquerors, the Mongols. (2)

(2) The religion of the Mongols when they first appeared in Mesopotamia in the thirteenth century appears to have been a kind of primitive paganism, or king worship. At first the Mongols persecuted the Moslems far more severely than the more humble and harmless Christians. Indeed, for a time, there existed more than a slight chance of their adopting Christianity, and there was an interchange of correspondence and missions between them and the Christian Powers of Europe. Nothing came of this, however, and finally their rulers adopted Islam during the fourteenth century. Timur was a fanatical Moslem, and his persecutions and massacres were particularly directed against the Mosul district where Christianity had survived to a much greater extent than round Baghdad. The Christians survivors fled to the mountains, where, even previous to this, there probably were some Christian elements.

History is silent about the Assyrians during the period 1400to1550. As already described, numbers of them gradually returned to the plains and became RAYAHS (protected subjects) of the new conquerors, but as quarrelsomeness and spirit of schism are always the bane of the Oriental Christian, disputes so arose about the succession to the Patriarchate. Since 1450 the patriarchate had been hereditary in the same family, although it did not descend from father to son, as the Patriarch was forbidden to marry. This arrangement was admittedly uncanonical, but the Assyrians justified it by stating that it prevented bloodshed on the occasion of a vacancy and an election. In the sixteenth century one of the rival candidates to the Patriarchate appealed to the POPE against another. One hundred years of hesitations and refusals to submit completely to Rome followed, and in 1680 Pope Innocent XI appointed the third Patriarchate, Mar Yusuf, who live at Diarbekr. One hundred years later Mar Elia of the plains, the rival to Mar Shimun of the mountains, submitted to Rome. His followers came to be called Chaldean Uniates, (3)

(3) The Uniate Churches, of which the Chaldeans are only one of several, acknowledge the supremacy of the Pope, but retain their own language, rites, and constitution.

and were recognized by the Turks as a MILLET in 1845. In the meantime, the Mar Shimun of the mountains had become a tribal chieftain as well as a religious leader. In these mountains the Turkish write hardly existed, and in effect both the Kurds and the Assyrians were independent, divided into clans, and possessing little cohesion. The Assyrians followed Mar Shimun in all matters religious, and on the political side it was through him that the Turkish authorities dealt with the Assyrian mountaineers whenever the necessity arose. Normally, the Assyrians held their own fairly well with their Kurdish neighbours. They were food fighters, and were respected as such. They could hit back if necessary, and one side did not all the raiding and killing. There is, indeed, no reason to think that the Assyrians had greater regard for the sanctity of human life and property than had the Kurds, nor that the Kurds generally had a lower standard of conduct-admittedly a rough-and ready-one-in their many raids and fights, than had the Assyrians.


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